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Soldiers, veterans and military spouses fill out applications for Toyota during a large scale job fair at Fort Drum. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — Unemployment numbers in the tri-county area are still higher than last year, but one of the most concerning facts is the diminishing workforce.

In October, 2,400 people, or 5.8%, were unemployed in Jefferson County; 2,300 in St. Lawrence County, 5.4%; and 600 in Lewis County, or 5.1%. The state unemployment rate in October was 9.2%, and the national rate was 6.6%.

All three counties have increased their unemployment numbers since September, but a driving factor is seasonal employees going on unemployment for the winter after working, say, a service job.

The numbers are up from last year at this point in the year, but it’s not as bad as it could be, or might soon be. In October 2019, the unemployment rate was 4.9% in Jefferson County.

“Yes, we’re seeing an increase, but given the pandemic, to be only a point nine percent (0.9%) difference is really good,” said Cheryl Mayforth, director of the Jefferson County WorkPlace.

Still, Mrs. Mayforth said, there are thousands unemployed and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which helped those who couldn’t find childcare, among more, is set to end New Year’s Day. Plus, in the month of October, Jefferson County lost 700 people from the workforce, perhaps from retirement or people leaving the area.

“That’s very concerning,” Mrs. Mayforth said. “Most analysts would say it’s the baby boomers retiring, and of course we’ll find out in the census whether other people are leaving the area.”

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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